In the final of our test squad predictor articles, we take a look at those guys contending for the no.1 jersey. Look out over the next few days for the collated squad as picked by you, the readers, and then when Gatland announces his we’ll see how it compares.
The bolter, the third choice, the impact sub – whatever you wanted to call Vunipola when the squad was announced, he has shed the majority of those labels in a series of power-packed performances in the famous red shirt. His work in the loose is second to none, and some of his handling is more reminiscent of a centre than a prop. Where he is arguably behind the other two contenders is in the scrum, where his technique can be slightly lacking. It could come down to which hooker is selected, as the power of Hibbard in the set-piece would allow Vunipola to have more of an influence on games in the loose. If Youngs – himself very good in the loose – is selected, being a smaller man he might need the scrummaging prowess of Corbisiero next to him. At the moment, the first of those scenarios is more likely than the latter.
Verdict: probable test starter
It has been an unreal year for the USA-born England prop. He would have been thrilled to be selected for the England tour of Argentina after suffering a cruel fate with injury, but to then be called into the Lions squad as injury cover would have been beyond his dreams. After further injury to Gethin Jenkins, he is now set to be involved in the test matches, and has an outside chance of starting on Saturday. He is one of the best scrummagers around at the moment, as England found out way back in the autumn when he shored up theirs against the much-vaunted South African outfit. He does lack a ball-carrying presence in the loose, however, so it will come down to how Gatland wants his pack to be balanced. As a late arrival, he is probably most likely to find himself on the bench.
Verdict: on the test bench
Arguably harshly overlooked in the initial selection process, Grant was the recipient of a Gatland phone call after it was confirmed that Gethin Jenkins’ tour was over. Since arriving his chances have been limited, with his first start coming in today/s 14-12 loss to the Brumbies. Sadly for him, the front five did not dominate as they should have done against an outfit with infinitely less experience, and he was guilty of a couple of scrum penalties. Very much third choice at the moment, but the way the looseheads are dropping like flies on this tour, it is not too much of a stretch to think he may be involved in some way as the test series goes on.
Verdict: not in the test squad
Over to you for the last time now – cast your vote for who you’d start at loosehead on Saturday in the first test.
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images